“Obviously,” I griped. “He won’t even look at me.” I twisted the cap off a bottle of Evian.
He squinted at me. “I bet he looked at the thong pic. Every man alive looked at the thong pic.”
The thong pic had been a holiday one where I stood on a half-ladder in four-inch stilettos, my body lit by Christmas lights, a Santa cap on. In it, I’m stretching up to put a star on the top of my tree. Well, not my tree. I was wearing, if you haven’t guessed already, just a thong. It was a Victoria’s Secret placement, and one I had gotten a ration of shit for, due mainly to the skinniness of my legs. They were scrawny, yes. They’d always been scrawny. Bird-legs, my mother used to call them. The internet had other words for them. Toothpicks. Chicken bones. I was trending under #anorexia for four hours before Vidal squashed it. That week’s video, I focused on thin shaming and went viral again, this time in a more positive light.
I took a healthy sip of the water. “Tell me it’s a lost cause.”
“It’s a lost cause.” He stretched back against the cushions, his hands propped under his head. “You’re too damaged for him. He likes caviar, not jalapeños. You want to win that boring heart, go volunteer somewhere. Adopt an orphanage in Africa. Then, you know.” He shrugged. “Hope he doesn’t see through it.” One corner of his mouth lifted in a wry grin. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have something to take care of before your models arrive.”
I followed his gaze to Mattie, my beauty girl, who was coming up the stairs to our upper deck. I grabbed my phone and pushed to my feet. “I’m going to go get a nap. Don’t let Vidal catch you on the drone.”
He said something in response, but I didn’t catch it and didn’t care. I passed her and smiled, then took the steps down to the cramped private bedroom on the bottom deck, where I stretched out as best I could and stared at Cash Mitchell’s social feeds.
Bojan was right. I was too damaged for Cash. The girls he was photographed with, which was a rare event in itself, were polished and perfect, the sort who attended private schools, wore pearls and spoke Latin. They were the complete opposite of me. Another reason why it was laughable for me to hold onto my deep-seeded crush.
I locked the screen and laid back on the mattress, fighting a wave of nausea.
Losing Vidal was such a cliche. I couldn’t have picked a more boring parting of two individuals. I had considered, over the last fourteen months, the concept that he would drop me as a client. In the early days, when we were just starting to gain traction, the idea scared me. Once I had Dion and Edwin, my concern lessened to the line just above not caring at all.
Maybe he could feel it. Maybe that’s why he did what he did.
The money had been growing, along with my numbers. My one-wall backdrop had been upgraded to a professional studio with three different settings, natural and artificial light, and an editing and promo team that took every broadcast and sliced and diced it into a dozen different shareable pieces of content. I filmed each morning—a fifteen minute live and unfiltered opinion fest about celebrities, current events, and pop culture. Afternoons were spent in photoshoots, meet and greets, or meetings. Break for two hours with a maniacal personal trainer, a dinner of carefully modulated calories, and then back into hair and makeup. Evenings were mostly with Bojan, at clubs and parties—my appearances short and well-documented.
Working my newly muscular butt off was starting to pay. I was averaging three sponsorships a week and had started to book appearance spots. My bank account was finally creeping back toward lotto cash-in day, and I was hoarding money and cutting expenses wherever I could. Online, my life was filled with designer clothes, shopping sprees and expensive champagne, but it was all show. My well-photographed shopping sprees were paid for in cash, and followed by Dion returning everything. Furniture purchases were limited to things shown on camera, which meant I had a beautiful bedroom and couch corner but nothing else. The team worked on a folding table in my dining room and my closet was almost entirely stocked by sponsors.
A lifetime of pinching pennies had built in a fear of debt and failure, and I was well aware that one wrong move could send me into a tailspin of obscurity. Goodbye followers. Goodbye fame. Goodbye money. I needed to suck every dollar I could, and leaned more heavily on Vidal.
It was at a Vitamin water shoot when the crack occurred. I was in an impossibly fluffy white robe, perched on a cushioned stool, in a back lot trailer, when our set coordinator gently knocked on the door, then peeked inside. “You decent?”